Rep. Abigail Spanberger
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger highlighted the different resources available to small business owners during a virtual townhall meeting last week, which focused on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on local businesses in the commonwealth. 

The remote town hall meeting was conducted over the phone and online, allowing constituents to ask questions and have a conversation with a panel of experts. Representatives from the Virginia Governor’s office, the Small Business Administration and the House Appropriations Committee joined to answer questions.

Nancy, a participant from Amelia County, said there are a number of people in her rural community who have been unemployed for the last couple of years, making it hard to get benefits since they haven’t filed taxes.

“They had nothing to file as far as an income tax return with the IRS. They’re on Medicaid assistance and they also have EBT cards to assist in the grocery line, of course. Do they get a check from the stimulus package that Americans are supposed to receive? How is that going to work?” she asked.

People who have not claimed an income in recent years are eligible for the financial assistance laid out in the upcoming stimulus package, Spanberger said. 

“Rebates, as they’re called, are based on earnings that people receive. So there’s a threshold under which someone would be eligible to receive those payments,” Spanberger said. “Adults who are not claiming income would fall within that threshold, under which those payments would be made available.”

Spanberger also noted that if individuals had not filed their taxes with the IRS in recent years they would need to fill out some additional paperwork to make it clear that they are eligible. 

Another caller asked about financial help for churches that have had to close since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Our church has been closed for the last three Sundays, does this program support churches? Is supporting the payroll expenses and also which loans should we apply for?” he asked.

Carl Knoblock, who serves as a district director of the Virginia Small Business Association, explained that there will be some economic relief for churches as well. 

“The new funding deals with the payroll and then also if you’re doing special functions at the church, like you have a daycare or a kitchen service type thing, that would be covered with it,” Knoblock said. “The final guidelines for churches are supposed to be coming out April 3rd to let us know how far that actually stretches.”

In her remarks, Spanberger noted that small businesses across the nation are struggling, but she promised to continue to push the federal government to support communities in every way it can. 

“What [I’m] doing here at home, as we confront this unprecedented public health economic crisis, is I will continue to push for a strong, coordinated response from the federal government. There are also steps that you all can take to keep your family safe. And so I’m grateful to everyone who is willing to abide by the social distancing requirements and the individuals who are making sacrifices in their own lives to help get this public health crisis under control.”

Spanberger also said that as guidelines and resources are updated in the coming days, small business owners should feel free to reach out to her office for additional information as needed.

“We are in uncertain times and our office has already heard from hundreds of individuals and business owners across our district about the economic challenges caused by COVID-19,” she said.